18th March 2020 – United Kingdom – 2,626 (+676) Cases ¦ 104 (+32) Deaths


More stories added soon.

22:56 Australia’s island state Tasmania to quarantine all arrivals

Tasmania, south of the Australian mainland, has announced a state of emergency and a mandatory quarantine on arrivals to prevent the spread of the virus.

This includes other Australians and locals heading home from the mainland. The only exceptions are for health and trade workers.

The nation’s smallest state currently has 10 cases, while there are around 270 in New South Wales and 150 in Victoria – states which have 15 times larger populations.

State premier Peter Gutwein says these are the “toughest border measures in the country”.

22:15 US home repossessions suspended amid virus crisis

President Donald Trump has said the US government’s housing agency will stop repossessing homes until the end of April.

Evictions will be suspended over the same time frame in a moratorium protecting eight million mortgages.

Two US Navy hospitals ships will also be sent to help relieve an expected shortage of sick beds.

22:05 Italy still waiting for a sign its lockdown has worked

The dire news from Italy is that despite a lockdown that has been in place for 10 days across the country, the death toll from this virus has continued to rise and rise.

It increased by 475 on Wednesday, the biggest in one day since the outbreak began, with 319 of these deaths occuring in the northern region of Lombardy, which has been the worst-affected.

Italian doctors had hoped to see infections slowing after a week of lockdown but that hasn’t happened. Some say that only after two weeks – believed to be the maximum time period it takes for symptoms to show – will they truly be able to see if the virus’s spread has been slowed by the drastic measures taken.

The governor of Lombardy has appealed to the public to continue to stay at home and not flout the government’s orders.

“Soon we will no longer be in a position to assist those who are sick,” Attilio Fontana said earlier today. “We are asking you to make a sacrifice to save lives.”

21:57 Confirmed cases jump in Ireland

The number of confirmed cases in Ireland has risen by 74, bringing the total number to 366, the Department of Health has said.

The cases are made up of 29 females and 45 males, it added.

On Tuesday, PM Leo Varadkar said Ireland could have 15,000 cases of coronavirus before the end of March.

In a St Patrick’s Day address, he warned of “significant and lasting” economic damage and said the emergency could last into the summer.

The government has already closed pubs, schools and universities.

21:20 New York Stock Exchange Trading Floor to Close

From Monday 23rd the NYSE trading floor will close but the market will remain open by electronic trading.

21 :15 French police hand out 4,000 lockdown fines

On Wednesday alone, police in France have handed out more than 4,000 fines to people violating government orders to stay at home.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told local outlet TF1 that the fine has been increased from €35 ($38; £32), and can be as much as €375 to try to dissuade people.

Since yesterday, people in France have been banned from going outside except for exercise and essential trips.

21:01 US Senate approves $100bn aid bill

The US Senate has passed a $105bn (£90bn) coronavirus aid bill. The president is expected to sign it into law.The bipartisan legislation was approved by the House of Representatives over the weekend.Here’s what it includes:

  • Free coronavirus testing for all Americans, even for those with private insurance and the uninsured
  • Until the end of the year, businesses with fewer than 500 employees must provide up to two weeks of paid leave for those diagnosed with Covid-19 or for those who must care for family infected by the virus; workers are allowed to take another 10 weeks off for two-thirds pay
  • The federal government will provide tax credits to cover the expense
  • Businesses with fewer than 50 workers may be exempt in some cases, and the bill does not apply to massive corporations
  • More funding for low-income food assistance programmes, including delivery to seniors and food banks, and the low-income government healthcare programme Medicaid

20:13 Birmingham and Solihull Old Persons Free Travel

From Thursday 19 March 2020, and until further notice, the restriction on travel before 09.30 has been suspended meaning that those eligible can travel free of charge on all bus and tram services in the West Midlands Network area from the start of service – excluding services ran by A&M Group – Flexibus and Select Bus Services.

Many leading supermarkets have decided to open early, or set aside the first hour of business exclusively for older customers and those most vulnerable to Covid-19. We hope that being able to use your pass earlier will allow you to take advantage of this.

Please bear in mind the Government’s advice about restricting social contact, particularly if you are over 70 or have underlying health conditions, and of course please do not travel if you are self-isolating. If you are unsure then please refer to the latest advice from the NHS and Public Health England at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

20:01 France cases rise above 9,000

Official figures show the number of reported cases of coronavirus in France have risen 18% in the last 24 hours, with 9,134 infections.

French authorities say 175 people also died during the period, bringing the total death toll to 264.

17:24 Italy deaths surge by 19% in a day

The death toll from the virus in Italy has surged by 475 over the past 24 hours, officials say. It brings the total number of deaths in the country to 2,978, an increase of 19%. The total number of confirmed cases in Italy, the European country hardest hit by the virus, rose to 35,713 from 31,506,

17:21 English schools will close to almost all children on Friday

English schools will close to all but the children of key workers and the most vulnerable children from Friday.

Gavin Williamson: “The benefits of schools remaining as open are changing swiftly…schools are finding it difficult to continue as normal, as staff levels drop….schools will shut their gates on Friday afternoon until further notice.”

Boris Johnson: “Everyone must follow social distancing advice to protect themselves and their loved ones… Avoid all unneccesary gatherings, pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants,…the decision to close schools has less impact than other measures – such as the advice to remain at home for seven days if you develop symptoms, and for 14 days if someone in your household develops symptoms…..but….now we need to apply further downward pressure” on the rising numbers of cases.”

Mr Johnson explains that schools will still need to look after the children of key workers – such as NHS staff – but also the most vulnerable pupils. This is to ensure public services can continue to operate. He says the government is working with nurseries and private schools to help this happen and making food vouchers available. Exams, he adds, will not take place in May and June as planned. 

Gavin Williamson: “This year’s exams will not go ahead, The spike of the virus is increasing at a faster pace than anticipated, he says, and taking these measures “will save people’s lives”.

Boris Johnson: The prime minister says children should not be left with older grandparents or older relatives who may be particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. “I want to thank families for their sacrifice,” he adds. “I want to thank teachers, all the support staff who keep schools going.”

Patrick Vallance: “the overriding consideration is to save lives and protect the most vulnerable”. The government’s chief scientific officer says people’s behaviour has already been changing since earlier measures, but adds: “The thing we must protect… is to make sure that the NHS, intensive care capacity and ventilator capacity is not breached”. He says that schools did not need to be shut from the start as they are “not dangerous places” for pupils or teachers, “but this extra bit is now important to protect NHS capacity” and stop the spread.

Boris Johnson: Mr Johnson finishes his opening speech by saying his government “will not hesitate to go further and faster in the days and weeks ahead”.

Gavin Williamson: “The scientific advice shows that these settings are safe for this small number of children to continue attending, but asking others to stay away will just go towards helping us slow the spread of this virus. Examples of these key workers include NHS staff, police and delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with educational health and care plans.”

Gavin Williamson: The Government is “expecting” early years providers, sixth forms and further education colleges to do the same.

Boris Johnson: responds to a question about people in London – where the coronavirus outbreak is ahead of other places in the UK – who appear not to be following the government’s advice. He says “we have always said we will do the right measures at the right time”. He adds that people are making a heroic effort to adhere to the government’s advice but that this is under constant review

Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, says the whole approach is to reduce social contact throughout society. “This measure moves that on a small amount but it is not to do with the safety of the children,” she says.

Boris Johnson: says the coronavirus is an invisible enemy and it is not clear who is transmitting it. Asked by the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg about the duration of school closures, the PM says he wants to keep it to an “absolute minimum”. He says the exemption for key workers is to keep the NHS going – but he cannot say when schools will re-open. Mr Johnson says he will ensure children due to sit crucial exams will get the qualifications they need. Though he adds that, at this stage, he cannot go into detail about how that might happen.

Dr Jenny Harries, says there is an “ambition” for people to be able to test themselves at home. She says the government has already increased its testing capacity, moving towards 25,000 a day. “But as we go forward, it is very much an ambition to have a home-based test [as] we don’t want infectious people arriving in hospital.”

Boris Johnson: Asked if there is a cap on support for struggling industries, Mr Johnson says the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a big package of support – with £20bn to support business directly in cash terms. The PM says that the government “will continue to look at the steps that are necessary to support good companies that are now facing difficulties through no fault of their own”. He adds that he is “absolutely convinced the UK economy will come back very strongly and we want those companies to exist” when it does.

Many people – especially the opposition Labour Party – have been calling for help for renters during the crisis. Asked about any future measures, Boris Johnson says: “We will be bringing forward legislation which will help renters and prevent them from suffering no-fault evictions, that kind of thing. “We cannot penalise people for doing the right thing, nor can we penalise people when you have an economic upset as a direct reaction to government advice to protect the public.” He adds: “Each person facing that disruption… is entitled to protection and support.”

Asked whether schools that have already closed to pupils will be forced to re-open to key worker children, Mr Johnson says the government will work to ensure that – where necessary – schools will provide facilities for those pupils. “Not every school [will be] providing the service for key workers and the vulnerable,” he adds. However, he says that on Monday 23 March vulnerable children and the children of key-worker parents should turn up to their current school as normal.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted at more stringent measures to enforce the government’s advice to people about the coronavirus.

Patrick Vallance: The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said modelling used to analyse Britain’s response assumes a majority will take measures to reduce the spread of the virus. “When we do not adhere to this we are putting the sickest patients at risk,” he says. He adds that people should view the government’s latest guidelines as “a really clear instruction” – not merely advice.

Boris Johnson: says it is “strong advice” – but he adds: “We do not rule out taking further and faster measures in due course.”

17:16 White House: 20% unemployment in ‘worst-case scenario’

US President Donald Trump and his coronavirus taskforce have delivered another update on the state of the crisis. This is what our reporters in Washington DC heard:

  • The defense department will be making millions of respiratory masks and other personal protective equipment available, including up to 2,000 ventilators
  • The president announced he is suspending all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April
  • In the coming days laboratories will be able to run tens of thousands of tests per day; the US is also working on creating a self-swab test
  • Trump pushed back against his treasury chief’s estimate that 20% of people could become unemployed due to the pandemic, saying that was only “an absolute, total worst-case scenario”
  • The taskforce cautioned that early reports from Europe show some younger people have become seriously ill with Covid-19, and called on millennials to practice social-distancing

17:11 Schools in Northern Ireland to close today

Northern Ireland has taken the decision to close schools as of 17:00 GMT today.It follows decisions by both the Welsh and Scottish governments to close their schools at the end of the week,

Delayed until 5:15 pm

16:28 UK death toll passes 100

The coronavirus death toll in the UK has risen to 104 – up from 71 the day before.

NHS England said a further 32 people had died in England after testing positive, while a further death was reported in Scotland.

The NHS said the patients were aged between 59 and 94 years old and had underlying health conditions.

16:16 New York order limits work outside home

We’re listening to President Trump speaking now and we’ll bring you any major developments from his presser.

Just minutes ago, in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new order that businesses must not have more than 50% of their workforce reporting to work outside of their home.

Essential businesses, like healthcare and food services, are exempt.

“Let’s maintain the public health, we’ll figure out the economy afterwards,” Mr Cuomo said, noting that the order would end as soon as the spread of the virus was under control.

President Trump has dispatched the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with a capacity of around 1,000 beds, to New York harbour. The US government will also be assisting with retrofitting existing hospitals and creating mobile hospitals to care for hundreds of people.

New York has tested some 14,000 people, according to the governor, and currently has the most confirmed cases in the nation.

15:38 First virus death in sub-Saharan Africa confirmed

The first recorded death from coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa has been confirmed by Burkina Faso. The victim, 62-year-old Rose Marie Compaoré was a vice president in Burkina Faso’s national assembly and had diabetes.

Experts are warning that already strained public health systems could easily become overwhelmed. So governments are taking steps which they hope will slow the pace of infection.

Nigeria says that from Saturday, it will stop arrivals from any country where there are more than 1,000 cases of the virus. Many African countries have closed schools at an earlier stage than happened in much of Europe.

15:18 10 Downing Street staff isolating due to virus symptoms

A small number of staff at the UK prime minister’s office are self isolating due to symptoms of the coronavirus, the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg reports.

She understands none of those isolating have been in close proximity to Boris Johnson.

People with symptoms are advised to isolate for seven days if they live alone or 14 days if they live with others.

It comes as one of the UK’s leading epidemiologists, Prof Neil Ferguson, said he developed symptoms of the virus after spending time in Downing Street on Monday.

He described Westminster and central London as a “hotbed” for Covid-19.

Health Minister Nadine Dorries became the first MP to test positive for coronavirus last week. A second member of the government, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, said he was self-isolating.

Another MP, Kate Osborne, has tested positive and several others have said they are self-isolating.

14:46 First UK prisoner tests positive

The first prisoner to be diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK has been confirmed.

The BBC’s home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says the prisoner is serving their sentence at HMP Manchester and is currently in hospital.

He adds that no other prison staff or prisoners have tested positive, but 13 prisoners and four members of staff have been put into isolation as a precaution.

14:31 UK housing associations rule out virus evictions

Housing associations in the UK will not evict tenants if they suffer hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Housing Federation, which represents associations which house six million Britons, said people affected by the virus can be reassured they won’t lose their home.

“No-one should be evicted because of the coronavirus. We are confident that no housing association will do this, and want anyone affected by the outbreak to be reassured they will not be evicted,” the federation’s Kate Henderson said.

14:25 Poland pledges $52bn fiscal package

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has announced a 212bn zloty (£43bn; $52bn) fiscal package to help the country manage the impact of the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Morawiecki said the package would consist of five parts: job safety, business financing, health care, strengthening the financial system and a public investment programme.

Under the measures, the state will cover 40% of workers’ salaries in struggling companies to avoid redundancies. Workers will also be allowed to delay their social security payments.

The prime minister promised 7.5bn zloty support for the country’s health care system and 30bn zloty for public investments, including roads, digitisation, energy sector transformation and the modernisation of schools.

Poland currently has 246 confirmed cases and five deaths.

14:15 UK coronavirus cases rise by nearly 700

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus in the UK has risen by 676.

2,626 people had tested positive for coronavirus as of 09:00 GMT, the government said.

The same figure yesterday was 1,950 positive cases.

14:02 UK education secretary to make statement at 17:00GMT

The UK government’s Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson – responsible for the system in England – will make a statement in the House of Commons at 17:00GMT.

In the past hour the governments in both Wales and Scotland have both said their schools would be closing by the end of the week.

13:52 Eurovision Song Contest cancelled

The latest event to be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak is the Eurovision Song Contest.

The event was due to take place at Rotterdam’s 16,000 capacity Ahoy Arena, with the final on 16 May.

Announcing its decision on social media, organisers said they were “extremely saddened”.

But they added: “The health of artists, staff, fans and visitors, as well as the situation in the Netherlands, Europe and the world, is at the heart of this decision.”

13:47 US-Canada border slams shut

President Donald Trump announces the temporary closure of the US border with Canada to non-essential traffic.

13:29 Scottish schools to close

Schools in Scotland are to close at the end of this week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says.

13:16 Wales to shut all schools from Friday

All schools in Wales will be closed from Friday, the Welsh government has announced. Several schools have already closed due to either suspected cases of coronavirus or because of staffing issues.

The Welsh government is the first UK administration to make the decision. School holidays were due to start on 6 April.

12:21 BBC launches new coronavirus programmes

The BBC has announced new programming in the UK to support the public during the coronavirus outbreak.

The corporation will begin a new live series called Health Check UK Live on BBC One each day to address concerns of those in isolation.

It will also aim to broadcast a virtual church service live on Sunday morning each week.

And the BBC Food website will provide recipes for those with access to only the bare essentials.

If schools are closed by the government, the BBC says it could provide a daily education television programme for different age groups that students can follow.

Director General Tony Hall said: “We all know these are challenging times for each and every one of us. As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a special role to play at this time of national need.”

11:52 Total number of cases passes 200,000

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has now passed 200,000, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The total is now 201,530 confirmed cases, and 8,007 deaths.

China still has the highest number of confirmed cases (81,102), while Italy has the second highest with 31,506.

11:33 UK MPs concerned over Prime Minister’s Questions

Members of the UK Parliament have said they are concerned about the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions due to take place at 12:00GMT today.

MPs have said that the PMQs session – which attracts hundreds in the House of Commons at Westminster – should adapt to social-distancing measures. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has advised the public to avoid large crowds.

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow minister for security, said: “I have concerns as well, I am not sure how long this can continue. There are ways around this where you can still hold the government to account.”

The Scottish National Party said its MPs would try to spread out across the green benches.

Conservative MP Michael Fabricant tweeted to say the party’s whips had asked that only those chosen to ask Mr Johnson a question should sit in the chamber.

11:26 Share prices tumble again in Europe and Asia

Share prices have fallen again in Europe and Asia, with markets unimpressed by government stimulus packages designed to counter the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The main exchanges in London, Frankfurt and Paris fell 4% in early trading. Across much of the European Union, border restrictions are in place, suspending the free movement of people. Wall Street’s main indexes rebounded by more than 5% on Tuesday following Monday’s steep falls. In the US, the Trump administration outlined a $1 trillion (£830bn) package to support the world’s biggest economy.


Only 15 people will be at Prime Ministers Question time today. Only the two main leaders and those who are asking questions.

11:03 Glastonbury cancelled

Glastonbury’s famous Pyramid Stage will remain dark in June, as the festival becomes the latest event to be cancelled due to coronavirus.

Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney and Kendrick Lamar were due to headline, alongside Diana Ross and Dua Lipa.

Just six days ago, organiser Emily Eavis said she had “fingers firmly crossed” the event would go ahead.

But after the government advised people to avoid mass gatherings, cancellation became increasingly likely.

10:39 BBC suspends TV soap filming

Filming for popular UK soap operas has been suspended following the latest government measures to curb coronavirus.

The BBC said production on EastEnders, Casualty, Doctors, Holby City, Welsh drama Pobol y Cwm and BBC Scotland’s River City will all be halted.

Meanwhile EastEnders’ episodes will now just air on Mondays at 8pm and Tuesdays at 7:30pm with immediate effect. This is to make the existing recorded episodes last as long as possible.

10:30 Huge queues and little food on Polish border

Traffic queues at Poland’s border crossings are stretching for up to 50km with some people having to wait for more than 24 hours following the introduction of checks at midnight on Saturday to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Foreigners are temporarily banned from entering the country and returning Polish citizens must be quarantined for 14 days. Border guards wearing protective suits and face masks are taking the temperature of everyone crossing the border.

Thousands of foreigners are leaving Poland to return home – on Monday, 8,500 left, mostly Ukrainian migrant workers – and thousands of Poles are trying to get back in.

And then there’s the trucks. The borders are still open to goods, but the authorities did not create special lanes for truck drivers to cross, so everyone is stuck in one line. They are now trying to do so following a request from the European Commission.

At the crossing in Jedrzychowice on the German border this morning, people in cars are waiting up to 16 hours and truck drivers up to 30 hours, according to Poland’s Border Guard.

People have been stuck in their vehicles overnight, many with nothing to eat or drink and with no access to toilets. Volunteers have been taking people water, hot drinks, fruit and sandwiches.

09:59 US papers hit out at Chinese expulsion of journalists

US newspapers have hit out at China’s decision to expel at least 13 of their reporters.

The journalists, who are US citizens, carried out in-depth reporting on the coronavirus epidemic in China when it was still in its early stages.

They work for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times said it was a grave mistake for China to cut itself off, while the Wall Street Journal called the expulsion an unprecedented attack on press freedom.

China said they would expel the reporters in response to restrictions placed on Chinese journalists working in the US.

09:56 India says 276 citizens infected in other countries

More from India now, and the country’s foreign ministry says more than 200 of its citizens have contracted Covid-19 in other countries.

This includes a group of 255 Indians who are in Iran, a spokesman told parliament.

Those infected with the coronavirus are not allowed to travel, and so will have to be treated in the countries they are currently in.

India has suspended most visas for foreigners and banned all travel from several countries including the UK, EU and Malaysia in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The health ministry says there are 130 active cases of Covid-19 in the country, but public health officials warn the country has tested far too few people.

09:52 Carmakers suspend production at UK plants

Toyota has announced that it is suspending production at its European plants, including its factory at Burnaston in Derbyshire and its engine facility in Deeside.

Together the two UK plants employ some 3,000 people. Staff will be put on paid leave. They are expected to stop work after the completion of the day shift today, and remain inactive until further notice, a period that is expected to last for at least the next two weeks.

BMW has announced similar steps, winding down production at its European plants, as well as at a facility in South Africa.

BMW has a total of 6,000 manufacturing staff in the UK. It operates a Mini factory near Oxford, as well as plants in Swindon and Hams Hall and makes Rolls Royce cars at Goodwood.

Both companies cited the fall in car sales due to the Covid-19 outbreak, difficulty obtaining parts due to disruption to their supply chains and a desire to protect staff and their families from the virus.

09:49 Support for UK renters coming ‘very shortly’

One of the key measures missing from the UK government’s financial response to the coronavirus (announced yesterday) was support for renters.

People who don’t own the home they live in are – for the moment – still not exempt from paying rent to landlords, despite the government announcing a policy of mortgage holidays for owners.

Now Business Secretary Alok Sharma has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the government will announce measures to help renters “very shortly”.

“The chancellor said very clearly yesterday at the despatch box… we are looking very actively at this, the housing secretary will be coming forward again very shortly to set out measures of how we will support renters,” he said.

09:28 Asia stocks fall despite stimulus plans

Asian stocks have fallen as worries about the coronavirus pandemic eclipsed hopes that major stimulus plans would ease the impact of the outbreak.

It came after Wall Street’s main indexes rebounded by more than 5% on Tuesday following Monday’s steep falls.

In the US, the Trump administration outlined a $1 trillion (£830bn) package to support the world’s biggest economy.

At the same time the UK has revealed details of its own stimulus measures, including £330bn of business loans.

08:46 First travellers turned away at EU airport

The first people have been turned away from the EU border under the bloc’s new travel ban for non-EU citizens.

Passengers on a flight from Turkey were stopped at Germany’s largest airport in Frankfurt am Main last night, as the 30-day ban came into effect.

It’s not clear how many flights today will be affected.

The German government is also trying to repatriate more than 100,000 Germans who are currently stuck abroad.

And in Poland, local media is reporting that there’s a 40km traffic queue at the Polish border as people rush to get home.

08:37 UK supermarket rations products

More on those plans by a big British supermarket – J Sainsbury – to ration products and prioritise the elderly and vulnerable after widespread reports of empty shelves.

Sainsbury’s says it has listened to feedback from customers and its staff and will introduce limits on the number of products people can buy.

There will be a three-item limit overall, but a two-item limit for those products in most demand – in line with some other UK supermarkets.

It has also decided to introduce special opening hours for the elderly and vulnerable, and prioritise them through its online shopping service.

08:05 French fine for breaking confinement

France is beginning its second day of strict confinement at home for all citizens.

According to French paper Le Monde, the fine for non-compliance is now 135 euros (£123, $149), up from 38 euros on Tuesday.

According to the paper, police had been lenient on the first day and most people didn’t have to pay, but if you’re on the streets of Paris without a good reason, you do run a risk of having to pay up.

07:29 ‘Small clusters’ of cases break out in South Korea

South Korea has been seeing a downward trend in the overall number of coronavirus infections, which had raised hopes that the epidemic in the country – the largest in Asia, outside China – might have been abating. Health officials are now worried about a small clusters of infections that have broken out.

At least 74 people from a hospital in Daegu that specialises in elderly care have been infected, while there have also been confirmed cases at a hospital south of Seoul.

This includes the head of that clinic, who has been in meetings with the country’s Vice Health Minister – who will now be placed in isolation and tested.

South Korea has reported 93 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in the country to just over 8,400.

06:33 Olympic training cancelled – NHK

Japanese public broadcaster NHK is reporting that several foreign countries have cancelled or postponed their national team training camps for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The table tennis and gymnastics teams from Colombia have cancelled their training in the western city of Kitakyushu.

Britain’s wheelchair basketball team was scheduled to practice next month in Urayasu City, near Tokyo, but has also cancelled due to players’ health concerns.

Sabae City in Fukui Prefecture has asked China’s gymnastics association to cancel its team’s training camp in the city in April, NHK reports.

06:01 South Koreans asked to cancel travel

Health officials in South Korea are asking the public to postpone or cancel all non-essential overseas travel. All those returning from overseas are being asked to stay at home for two weeks.

05:56 British supermarkets to prioritise elderly

British supermarkets are introducing new measures to help the elderly and those with disabilities as the country was hit with a flurry of panic-buying.

Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is following the lead set by Iceland, which has set aside a few hours for those in these two groups to shop exclusively.

Sainsbury’s said that on Thursday, its first hour of opening would be set aside for the elderly and vulnerable. It will also give priority to online orders from those over 70 and those with disabilities.

Panic around the coronavirus has seen shoppers stockpiling, leaving shelves stripped of some items including toilet roll and pasta.

05:17 All 50 US states affected by virus

The deadly coronavirus has now hit all 50 states in the US as West Virginia reported its first case of the infection on Tuesday.

Announcing its first Covid-19 patient, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said: “We knew this was coming.”

New York City said it was considering a lockdown similar to one in the San Francisco Bay area.

There have so far been 108 deaths in the US from coronavirus and more than 6,300 confirmed cases nationwide.

04:47 Kyrgyzstan records first coronavirus cases

The central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan has recorded its first cases of the coronavirus, its healthcare minister said on Wednesday according to a Reuters report.

Three citizens who arrived from Saudi Arabia all tested positive for the virus. The country had just a day earlier banned entry to all foreigners as a precautionary measure.

04:39 Airlines trying to hoard cash

Globally airlines are struggling – with all carriers slashing their routes and warning they will be laying off staff.

In Australia, national flag carrier Qantas says it will suspend 90% of international flights and about 60% of domestic journeys.

In an email to customers on Wednesday, it urged passengers not to cancel flights and get refunds.

Instead, the airlines “strongly encourages” people to get a credit voucher for use later. Passengers gain by not paying cancellation fees, but crucially the airline gets to hang on to those cash reserves it desperately needs.

04:32 Australia and NZ cancel Anzac Day events

A 2019 Anzac Day ceremony in QueenslandImage caption: A 2019 Anzac Day ceremony in Queensland Australia and New Zealand have scrapped annual Anzac Day commemoration events in Turkey, amid fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Each year traditionally, thousands will travel to to Gallipoli Cove, to mark the countries’ participation in World War One.

However the threat of the virus spreading and global travel restrictions have made the event unfeasible.

Crowd attendance at ceremonies on the day of remembrance have also been cancelled. Australia has flagged that it may “live-stream some events”.

04:15 Las Vegas strip to shut down

Here are more details on the shutdown in Nevada.

Governor Steve Sisolak announced the measures in a news conference Tuesday night.

“This [coronavirus] is effecting the lives of our citizens. People are dying. Every day that is delayed here, I’m losing a dozen people on the back end that are going to die as a result of this,”

All non-essential businesses are affected by the shutdown. Restaurants are only allowed to provide takeout or delivery.

Even slot machines in convenience stores will no longer be permitted.

“America’s playground”, as Las Vegas is known, is usually open 24-hours a day. The last time the casinos had to lock their doors was on the day of John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.

Nevada’s month-long freeze on gambling will hit Las Vegas hard. The city depends on the glitz of the Vegas strip for its tourism and hospitality-based economy.

The closure – which goes into effect Wednesday at noon – will be part of federal guidelines recommending social distancing. Americans are asked to follow sweeping measures for the next few weeks, including for older residents to stay at home and for people to not gather in groups of more than 10 or go to restaurants and bars.

04:05 Britons ‘should leave Myanmar’

The UK’s Foreign Office is also urging UK citizens to leave Myanmar.

“This is due to potential pressures on medical facilities and the risk of air routes out of Myanmar being cancelled.”

Myanmar’s government has so far reported not a single case of coronavirus, but there is increasing scepticism about this.

Human Rights Watch has said the claims “defy reality” and “give a false sense of security to the country’s people about the disease and their risks of infection”.

03:49 HK dog dies after quarantine

A 17-year-old dog in Hong Kong which had tested “weak positive” for the coronavirus but was then cleared has died two days after coming out of quarantine.

The dog belonged to a Hong Kong woman who tested positive for Covid-19. It was allowed home after testing negative, but died shortly after.

The case made headlines as a possible first human-to-animal transmission of the virus.

The World Heath Organization says there is no evidence pets can be infected with coronavirus. The dog likely just had the virus in its system, and is not believed to have been killed by it.

03:40 Australia PM scolds stockpiling shoppers

More on that press conference earlier from Australian PM Scott Morrison.

He saved his strongest words for people who were hoarding and panic-buying food and medicine, telling them simply to “stop it”.

Fights between shoppers have been reported in supermarket aisles, while staples such as toilet paper, rice, pasta and meat mince are still rare commodities on store shelves.

“It has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis,” Mr Morrison said.

“This is not who we are.”

03:29 Travel confusion in the Philippines

In the Philippines the government has reversed its decision to impose a travel ban on international flights scheduled to begin on Friday.

Now all foreign nationals may fly out of the country at any time according to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Inbound international passengers are also allowed entry, subject to strict immigration and quarantine protocols.

The now overturned ban on international flights had left many foreign tourists, dispersed across the country’s more than 7,000 islands, puzzled as to how they could leave the country.

With domestic flights in and out of the Philippine capital suspended while the main Luzon region is under lockdown, the British embassy in Manila is reporting a “small number” of Britons affected by the travel restrictions.

The government says their “enhanced community quarantine” will stay in place until 12 April.

The government says the country currently has a total of 187 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 14 deaths, but experts are warning that with limited pre-emptive testing the number is likely to be higher.

03:16 Nevada closes casinos, Las Vegas

It’s “rien ne va plus” for Las Vegas for now.

The US state of Nevada is ordering the closure of casinos, restaurants and all non-essential businesses.

While a few casinos had already shut down business, the new order will have the glitzy gambling capital of Las Vegas come to an abrupt halt.

The order will come into effect at noon on Wednesday and is currently planned for an entire month.

03:00 Australia to keep schools running

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference this morning was his most frank statement yet about how Australia was in this for the long-haul – of at least six months or more.

He said all decisions they announced needed to be sustainable for that period.

One of the key announcements was the ban on gatherings of more than 100 people – that includes places of worship but not schools and universities or “essential” locations which range from hospitals and airports to shopping centres and workplaces.

“They are essential places of where there are essential gatherings. Non-essential is everything else,” said Mr Morrison.

The school policy has been controversial – as calls grow for them to be closed and several independent schools shut of their own accord.

However, Mr Morrison said the health advice remained the same – and cited Singapore where schools have remained open and “they have been effective in managing and limiting the transmission of this virus”.

He has warned closing schools could cost tens of thousands of jobs and could take 30% of health workers out of the health system.

02:16 California schools remain shut

Schools in California will likely remain closed for the rest of the school year, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.

“I would plan and assume it is unlikely that many of these schools, few if any, will open before the summer break,” he said in a news conference.

Almost all of the state’s schools have closed although there’s not yet been a state mandate to do so.

Currently, there are 700 confirmed coronavirus cases in California and 12 deaths. Overall the US has more than 6,000 cases.
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02:10 Raft of new measures in Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the situation is a “one in a hundred year event”.Image caption: Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the situation is a “one in a hundred year event”.
Australia has now reported over 450 cases, a doubling of cases in one week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a major update this morning, saying Australia had not seen such a national emergency since the end of World War One.

However he urged the public to remain calm, and announced two new key restrictions on travel and social settings.

“Non-essential” gatherings of more than 100 people are now banned, while Australians have also been told to not travel overseas.

Full news report on Australia’s latest response

“Do not travel abroad. Do not go overseas. That is very clear that instruction,” Mr Morrison said in press conference.

“The biggest risk we have had and the biggest incidents of cases we have had… has been from Australians returning from overseas.”

On Sunday, Australia ordered anyone arriving in the nation to self-isolate for 14 days. Last night it also urged its citizens abroad to return home immediately warning that other nations were rapidly closing borders

02:05 Major Hong Kong newspaper closes offices

The South China Morning Post, one of the most prominent newspapers in the region, has closed its offices in Hong Kong as a precaution, after someone tested positive.

“As of Wednesday, all employees will be working from home while offices at both Times Square and South Island Place are shut down until further notice for deep cleansing and disinfection,” said the newspaper.

Its operations will move online.

01:53 Long queues at Singapore border

Here in Singapore, there were huge queues at the borders with Malaysia late on Tuesday, ahead of a two-week ban on Malaysians travelling abroad.

Tens of thousands of Malaysians travel into Singapore every day to work, and the small country relies on their labour. Some were rushing home in time, whereas others were rushing into Singapore, where accommodation has been found for them.

Malaysia is also the source of much of Singapore’s food, particularly fresh produce. And despite government assurances food would not run out, the lockdown sparked another burst of panic-buying in Singapore.

01:50 WHO warns South East Asia

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization issued a stark warning to countries in South East Asia.

“The situation is evolving rapidly. We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people,” said regional director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

“More clusters of virus transmission are being confirmed. While this is an indication of an alert and effective surveillance, it also puts the spotlight on the need for more aggressive and whole of society efforts to prevent further spread of COVID-19. We clearly need to do more, and urgently.”

Eight of the 11 countries in the WHO’s SE Asia region have confirmed cases:

Thailand 177
Indonesia 134
India 125
Sri Lanka 19
Maldives 13
Bangladesh 5
Nepal and Bhutan one each